Like many early African American writers, Charles Chesnutt was deeply interested in the texts and educational practices of classical antiquity. While Chesnutt similarly connected the rhetoric of racial uplift to the project of reading the classics, his reading choices also reveal how classical literature moved him to think (and write) beyond the racial constraints of his post-Reconstruction historical moment. In this article, I reexamine Chesnutt’s manuscript Journals with a focus on his intensive reading of Homer’s Iliad—a section of the Journals not broadly available to scholars in print form. The Journals show us the reading method of a partially educated African American man of the late-nineteenth century, demonstrating that he viewed reading as an opportunity to assert his entitlement to participate in a timeless community of readers and to acquire the knowledge he would need to engage in conversations with readers of his time, without regard to racial boundaries.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 301-327
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.